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Joyce Endee

Ossipee selectmen hear complaint about ambulance contract

May 26, 2011
OSSIPEE— "The concerns we would be concerned about, and we've never had one in prior contracts or in this contract, are patient care concerns or from the patients directly," said Ossipee Selectman Morton Leavitt at Monday's selectmen's meeting after being presented with the results of a fire commissioner's "fact-finding."

West Ossipee Fire Precinct Commissioner Gregory Howard said he had heard there were issues with the current ambulance contract between Ossipee and private contractor Ossipee Valley EMS. At issue, Howard said, is section 4a of the contract that reads "Contractor shall maintain a minimum of three ambulances licensed by the NH Department of Safety, Bureau of EMS at the Intermediate level. One of the ambulances will be dedicated at all times to the Town (available only for incidents originating in the Town) at the time of signing. The ambulance dedicated to the Town will be no more than five years old, either chassis or box at the time of signing. The second ambulance shall not be older than 10 years, at the time of signing, either chassis or box. The tertiary ambulance will be no older than 15 years, either chassis or box, at the time of the signing."

Howard's interpretation of this section is that Ossipee Valley's newest ambulance, 27A5, should not respond to another town. This ambulance, he said, responded to 195 calls between January 1 and April 29. Of those calls, 31 were calls outside of Ossipee.

Howard was on the agenda for the meeting but Ossipee Valley EMS owners Brian and April Johns were not notified their company and the contract were going to be a topic of discussion and therefore were not at the meeting. Reached by telephone Tuesday, Brian Johns said he met with Selectman Harry Merrow and Town Administrator Martha Eldridge on Tuesday after he learned of Howard's concerns about the contract.

"I told them I will do everything I can to keep 27A5 in Ossipee, if that is the wishes of the selectmen. I am not looking to buck in the intent of the contract and work to meet or even exceed the terms," he said. He pointed out his company's response to a call on Tuesday, a two-vehicle accident on Route 28. At that call, three ambulances were at the scene, a fourth one was staffed back at the company's base in West Ossipee, and two paramedics also responded in the supervisor's vehicle.

Johns said the section of the contract Howard referred to is "vague and open to interpretation." It is his interpretation that at least one ambulance must be available in Ossipee at all times, a condition that he has not failed to meet.

Johns' company also has the contract with Effingham. Of the 31 calls that the 27A5 ambulance responded to outside of Ossipee, 22 were in that town.

Johns said if the only concern is which ambulance is used to get to patients and provide care, that can be easily worked out and the contract can be clarified. Like Leavitt, Johns said he would be far more concerned if calls were going unanswered or patient care was being compromised, neither of which is happening.

Howard said not following the contract to the letter is a "deliberate action and a slippery slope," and in his opinion, the selectmen need to enforce the contract.

Selectmen agreed to talk with Johns about Howard's concerns and report their findings to a selectmen's meeting in as early as two weeks.

There has been rumor since the request for proposals first went out that Leavitt somehow has a financial interest in Ossipee Valley EMS and should not have been involved in the vote to award the contract or in any discussions involving the company. Both Leavitt and Johns denied that Leavitt has any financial interest in the company. Leavitt did speak in defense of the company Monday night. He pointed out that the previous owners had run the business "into the ground" and that the new owners (the Johns), both paramedics, are trying to rebuild the company and he supports their efforts as they are trying to "do a good job."

As for any other complaints fire precinct officials or residents may have about the ambulance service, Merrow said "I've said it a hundred times before, if you won't put it in writing, you might as well just take the complaint somewhere else."

Other meeting news

Selectmen anticipate the Chapel Road Bridge will be under reconstruction by the end of June – a project that will likely last two weeks. Selectmen expect to have a schedule for road closure at their next meeting, June 6, and notices will be published in the newspaper.

Chemical milfoil treatment in Phillips Brook at its outlet in Ossipee Lake will begin on or about June 1 according to a notice from Aquatic Control Technologies. Property owners around the affected area will be notified and signs will be posted along the shoreline. Temporary water use restrictions will be imposed on the day of treatment including no swimming for 24 hours within 200 feet of the treated areas.

Martin Lord & Osman
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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